Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sorry - I am a Bad Blogger

Apologies. This has become one of those blogs with a splurge of posts every couple of years. The first post of each splurge is an apology for not blogging for xdays, xweeks, xmonths or xyears.

This time its an apology for not posting for xyears.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll probably put up a few posts - that's all I am going to suggest. Any more would be hopelessly optimistic.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Anniversary of The Great Tour

The impending start of the 2013 Tour de France has taken my thoughts back to the summer of 2010 and how I spent the first week of that edition. 

The Great Tour. I've written about it before and you can find loads about it on Google, but suffice to say it was a 64 day charity ride around the coastline of Great Britain.

It is one of the events that defined me as a cyclist and every now and then I like to remind myself of that summer by watching this video.


If you can stand watching video of people on bikes and my taste in music, it might be worth watching.

WARNING TO BRITISH VIEWERS - the bright thing in the sky was known as the sun. We used to get it sometimes in the summer. Remember?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

100 Mile Time Trial Pacing, Nutrition, Strategy & General Planning and Preparation - ECCA 100 2013

I am writing this mainly because when I Googled “100 Mile Time Trial Pacing” it returned very little of use. Maybe I used the wrong search term or maybe its because time trialling is a peculiarly British pastime with the 100 being an even smaller niche or maybe even because the keepers of this wisdom want to keep it to themselves. I very much doubt the last possibility as you can’t stop most of the testers I know from offering advice on anything and everything.. Every chance they get.

I am not a coach and don’t claim to have any special knowledge on the subject. I have just done my first 100 and I will just tell you what I did, what I thought worked well and what didn’t – this doesn’t necessarily make it right for anyone else – first rule of seeking advice; take what you find with a pinch of salt and remember everyone is different. Most crucially – adapt and try to apply it to your own situation.

Firstly, my background – I am a very average club level time triallist. I am nowhere near a pro, or even a good amateur, but equally I am not coming into this with no experience at all. Most of my testing is done on the club Evening 10s, local Open 25s and 50s – in total, I probably time trial about 25-30 times a year. Currently my 10, 25 and 50 PBs (mostly on sporting courses I hasten to add) are 24.03, 1:04.54 and 2:09.17.

Rovers Open 50

I am 45, male, 1.83m and about 79kg. All of this is relevant but please adapt and apply this to your own situation, even if you just sit down and think realistically about who are you and what you might be capable of. Oh, my resting heart rate is also about 44bpm and my max at 185bpm. That’s about all the science clues you’re going to get because that is pretty much all I know myself.

Having failed to find anything much about 100 mile time trial preparation on Google, I asked around. I asked on Twitter and I asked clubmates, specifically about the pacing issue. Frustratingly, opinion was evenly divided.

Rovers Open 25
1.    Go out easy. Save yourself. Gradually ramp it up. The last quarter will be the worst thing you ever experience

2.       Don’t go out too slow – the last quarter is never as bad as you think its going to be.

Take your pick.

This is where I started to look at my known performances and ask another question – if I can do a 50 on a sporting course in 2:09, what should I be aiming at on a dual carriageway 100?

The answers came back again and this time varied between 4:20 and 4:40…

Take your pick… but… I now had a level of expectation and potential for a target time. I also looked at previous performances by clubmates I regularly race against and was able to get things a little clearer in my mind. I now knew I should go under 4.40, but would be happy with anything under 4.30 (based on bragging rights – another important consideration)

The leap into the unknown also involved the course – I have only ridden one dual carriageway time trial before and had experienced the significant increase in speed, but I had no idea of the topography or the organisers ability to marshall and signpost this one correctly. I have to say at this point that the organisers (Eastern Counties Cycling Association) put on one of the best organised, signposted and marshalled events I have taken part in. Anyway, I’ve gone off course too many times before, so the only answer was to drive it, which I did a week or so ahead of time.

I was mildly freaked out by the volume of traffic when I drove the course but had to remind myself this was why the event started at 5.00am.

Driving the course also gave me a chance to record it on a Garmin blu-tacked to the dash – this gave me a file that I could check for gradients etc and a course that could be used on the day if directions were a concern. Most importantly, I had seen the roads and turns, giving me a much better overview of the course and a bit of extra confidence. I found that building confidence and removing as many concerns for raceday as possible was very important.

Because I was doing this race unsupported, I was now also able to start working on my nutrition plan – I am rubbish at eating or drinking on a TT bike and avoid both as much as I can as it interferes with my rhythm but most importantly is hard to do in windy conditions (which most of my races seem to be). Please note that I am not a camel and although I don’t eat or drink on 10s, 25s or 30s, I do drink on a 50. I will also take a gel on a 50 but rarely use it at this distance. However, I knew I had no choice with a 100 – you simply have to fuel responsibly. The knowledge gained from the drive was crucial in coming up with a simple plan – basically down a gel at each of the turns (4 of them)  where I could get some shelter and not lose too much speed and then to drink every 10 miles. It was rough, but it was a plan. 

Nutrition will always come down to personal preference. There’s no point downing stuff that is going to make you puke – it slows you down and gives you lost fuel to make up for…You need to experiment with different products in good time for your event.  I personally like  the SIS gels that don’t need water but they only have 31g of carbs. I hate the Zipvit gels that do need water (I can never get them down properly) but they have 51g of carbs. I like the gels with caffeine which seem to work for me… so here is what I did.

Zipvit bag of gloop 15 minutes before start with water
SIS nice gel at first major landmark - 14 miles
Zipvit stuff at 34 mile turn
SIS nice one at 54
Zipvit Caffeine at 70
Zipvit Caffeine at 90
Bacon sarnie at 102.

I love the caffeine gels and regularly have one 15-20 minutes before a ten. I’d assumed this would be fine for any distance but was correctly warned by a friend the week before the event to only use caffeine products towards the end when you really need them. The low that can be experienced once the effects of caffeine wear off is not worth it – nor is the diuretic effect. Also (and this one takes dedication) the effect of the caffeine gels is increased if you abstain or at least cut down on caffeine intake for about a week before the event.

I was also told by another friend who does 24hr MTB stuff that the body can absorb 1.3g of carbohydrate for every kg of body weight and this is what you want to aim at. I learned this the day before the event, did some sums and thought… bugger. Not enough. But decided to stick to my original plan. Taking the plan apart would heave created too much disruption and uncertainty at this pont. To be honest, I couldn’t have downed more gels if I had tried. Well, I could but they would have come back up again and then my sums would have been seriously affected.

All this nutrition stuff  hasnothing to do with pacing, apart from I found it useful to start thinking and planning and conceivably have fewer things to worry about on the day. I suppose this is what Dave Brailsford might describe as “process”.

Even World Champs can over-prepare
Now. To accommodate all this nutritional luggage, I had to do away with the skinsuit for this event and stick with the club jersey and its trusty rear pockets. This was also useful as I normally ride with an aero bottle with a can of Vittoria Pitstop tucked inside in case of any p&*%ture dramas with tubs. As I needed both bottle cages for bottles, I had to find a home for the Pitstop, of which I decided to carry two cans for this race.

I had two 750ml bottles – one with my isotonic drink of choice and the other with plain water to help wash down the gloop.

Another challenge presented by the 100 was the start time – the event started at 05:00 with me going off at 5.36. Working things back, I knew I wanted to be there an hour before my start, it takes an hour to drive there and I wanted my regular raceday breakfast of cold skimmed milk, organic porridge oats and sliced banana 3 hours before my start. This meant setting the alarm for 02:30, which in turn meant an early night. A very early night.

On the drive to the HQ I sipped at a 500ml bottle of Lucozade sport and munched through a well filled PBJ sarnie. All very slowly.

Inevitably, I needed the loo a number of times before the start – the last time in a hedge about 4 minutes before my start time. Bizarrely, I was then dying for a wee from about 8 minutes into the ride – that desire finally left me around the 60 mile mark and I have no idea why.

In the days leading up to the race I was keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast although in reality this is a variable over which you have no control – its just nice to know. 
A busy Eagle Road Club Hut at 5.00am - ECCA 100 

Fortunately raceday remained pretty dry (just a few spots of drizzle early on) but it felt windy as hell. I hate riding into the wind, just as most sane cyclists do, but you have to play with the hand you’re dealt and as it turned out the wind was very helpful  in determining the final pacing strategy which was created partially on the hoof.

I elected for the go out easy and try to build steadily but with a few crucial wind inspired amendments. A wonderful tailwind meant I was able to keep the heart rate down, put the minimum effort in but still roughly maintain a 25mph average. For the first 35 miles or so.

Due to my unnatural speed, I knew there must have been significant help from the wind – often you don’t realise how much until you turn to come back the other way – and realised I had to keep a lid on this wind assisted effort as I would need every ounce of power to get me back to the roundabout turn a further 20 miles back the other way. Wise move but it needed great discipline – I was just itching to power along at 30mph plus – I just had to keep that lid on.

At the turn I was able to pick up the pace again with the help of the wind but this time, having experienced 20 miles of the headwind, I kept just a little bit more in reserve. More discipline – its not my normal approach, honest!

Anyone can turn their hand to testing
This section was crucial as I knew it was not just the 20 miles back to the roundabout but the course demanded the final 30 miles back into the wind with the last 10 being on slower roads. As a result of saving a bit more while the going was good I was able to complete the first 20 of that final headwind section faster than the previous lap.

One nutrition point raised its head at about 95 miles when my left quad started to cramp a bit, suggesting  that I could have possibly done with a bit more of the isotonic drink earlier.

Once over the line I was pretty pleased with myself on the one hand but felt a bit too fresh for the end of a time trial – I hadn’t left everything out on the road. On the other hand, due to the cramp, I would not have been able to go much further at any kind of speed – in that sense I had done the best my body would allow and I had the confidence to set a more challenging target for the next race at this distance . The thought I couldn’t get out of my head was that I only time trialled half of it – the windy bits. For the rest of it I was just riding my bike. With the benefit of hindsight those sections were crucial in being able to complete the distance and beat my target time.

I finished with 4:25.17 – an average of 22.7mph – and am very happy with that, particularly in the conditions. As is the way with testing, I now have my marker and the plans for the next one will be built on this experience.

The Strava file with heart rates, speeds etc can be seen here - the effects of the headwind section are clear to see! http://app.strava.com/activities/62279490

So to summarise this waffle – the best piece of advice I can give  is to start thinking about your event as early as possible and write stuff down. Do different calculations and compare the results – imagine what it might feel like and compare it to some other exertion you are familiar with. Ask questions, use Google, talk to people who have done it and read forums. You need to raise the bullshit filters but you’ll get a feel for sensible advice after a while. Oh, and ride your bike as much as you can – I ‘ve not touched on training here at all as that’s a whole subject in its own right. Ride as much as you can and rest as much as you can. There you go… I managed to sign off with my own piece of contradictory advice… Go figure…

100 mile TT + 2 x Leffe Blond = ........

Thursday, 17 January 2013

London Bike Show 2013 - Kinky Pinarellos

Kinky Top Tube
I said it last year, I am saying it again this year and I know I'll be repeating it next year.

Why is a straight line not good enough for Pinarello?

Why do they insist on disrupting every possible straight line with a kink or a curve on so many models?

To me, the best bike design is about clean lines.

London Bike Show 2013 - Team Sky Pinarello Graal TT Bike

Displayed next to the Pinarello Matt Track Bike, this was the only item on the Pinarello stand to make the 10 Grand fixie seem cheap.

The Team Sky liveried Graal comes in at a jaw dropping £14,000.

Featuring a 60HM1K carbon monocoque frame (1100g in 53cm) and matching fork, this Graal is equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

Available in a range of sizes from 45cm to 57.5cm, Pinarello were anxious to emphasise that your £14,000 bike will come complete with basebar, stem and bars.


If you prefer a non-trade team liveried bike, there was also a tasty looking red and white number, equipped with Campag Super Record and Corima Disc for the bargain basement rate of just £9,499.

Phew again.

London Bike Show 2013 - The Ten Grand Fixie - Pinarello Matt Track

The Pinarello Matt 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen; here it is - the ten grand fixie!

Well, its the Pinarello Matt 2013 track bike at the London Bike Show.

As pictured, running Campagnolo Record, complete with Corima 4 Spoke front and Disc rear, this little beauty will set you back £9,999.

If you prefer to simply pick up the carbon 30 HM12K monocoque frame, forks and bars it can be yours for as little as £7,699.

The frame comes in 42.5, 46, 51.5, 53, 55 and 58cm, the 53cm example weighing in at 1200g.

It is certainly an amazing looking bike - I particularly loved the bars, but 10K?

Go on, treat yourself!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 - A Year in Numbers

Some cyclists love numbers. Numbers can define what we do and how we’ve done it.

We all seem to throw numbers around -  in many cases without even having to define the unit of measurement.

For example, I could ride a 10 or a 25, aspire to do a 12 and manage a short 1:04 and a lot of like-minded people would know exactly what I was talking about.

I like the numbers and although I don’t ride for their sake, they help me understand what I have done – where I’ve done well, where I am lacking and where I can improve – and they help me plan for the following year – most of my 2013 targets have a numerical quality. Either a bigger or smaller number. You know which is which.

So in review, the top line. For me;

2012 = 5549


2011 = 4155


2010 = 3187

That’s progression and it makes me happy.

2012 was my 2nd season of time trialling and I managed to knock 2.12 off my 10, 6.58 off my 25 and 7.34 off my 50. In 2013, I will be targeting a 100 and a 12 and hoping for another 1.00 off my 10, 3.00 off my 25 and 6.00 off my 50.

Looking at my Garmin Connect, it will tell me that the 5549 for 2012 encompassed 309hrs on the bike at 16.5mph. With an average HR of 136bpm, I climbed 27,000m and burned 258,000Cal. This included 37 races, 4 Reliability rides and 235 other training and leisure rides. I also used the bike as part of my commute to work 64 times.

Financially I made £35 in prize money, and spent a classified amount on entry fees, kit and consumables. In this game, the numbers don't always add up.